Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, a review in which the word “helpfully” is used sarcastically more than once.

I’ve long been a proponent of at-home fitness activities; the reasoning being that if you have to travel somewhere to work out, if it’s anything less than perfectly easy and convenient, you won’t do it consistently. I’ve enjoyed workouts like Turbo Jam and Chalene Extreme, which encourage me to jump and punch and kick without worrying how I look in front of a class of fit people and lift weights without some bulging dude grunting like a rhinoceros directly behind me, respectively. But with DVD workouts, you aren’t getting any feedback, unless your partner is sitting behind you on the couch, eating oreos and helpfully pointing out that you aren’t squatting low enough. Thus is the appeal of a game workout like Your Shape: Fitness Evolved–the Kinect sees your movements and can correct your form.

That is, if it worked properly. Apparently no one on the team of Your Shape has ever seen a fat or a short person, much less a short fat person, and my experience with the game was nothing short of extraordinarily frustrating. Supposedly, the program scans your body at the outset to determine arm and leg length, and to automatically sign you in, but even though I wear the same workout clothes and have my hair the same way nearly every time I play, the game has never once recognized me. My frustrations began with the personal trainer program. Like I’ve indicated above, this is not my first aerobics rodeo mimicking the movements of an instructor, so it’s annoying and frustrating to move exactly on beat, following the trainer precisely, and yet be punished by the game for being “out of rhythm”, during which your calorie count does not change even though you are performing the activity. Sometimes the game will indicate that I am in and out of rhythm six times over the course of one move, though my movements are indistinguishable from those of the onscreen trainer. With every move, I am berated to “move my legs farther apart”, and even when I widen my stance much more than the trainer, to the point of having to hop from foot to foot to perform the move, I am still instructed to widen my stance. Other times, I will be told not to raise my arms so high, so I will lower them a little, and then immediately be told to keep my arms up. The trainer will then helpfully repeat these useless suggestions at the end of each exercise, in case you didn’t hear them the first six or seven times. It’s here that the calorie counter really falls short, as having a she-hulk nuclear meltdown tantrum on the floor due to 6 contradictory corrections in the course of ten seconds burns way more calories than a simple step-touch.

When you aren’t being told to correct your form one way and then corrected the opposite way immediately afterward, the space in between is filled with “good!” “that’s right!” “you’ve got it!” “keep up the good work!” “you’re doing great!” “that’s it!” “That should feel much better”, one right after another. If the virtual trainer were a person, her friends and relatives would all tell you that she just likes to hear herself talk. It is incredibly annoying and distracting and there’s no way to turn it off. That’s right, I came to the game looking for feedback, but now that I’ve got an earful, I’d pay extra to disable it, since I’m getting nothing beneficial from it and it’s actively detracting from my experience.

In the fitness classes portion of the game, they have two different classes you can take: Cardio Boxing, and Zen, though they helpfully include all of the other workouts you can purchase for more money onscreen, as apparently the sixty dollars you paid for a workout game was merely enough to pay for the framework of the game and the workouts themselves have to be purchased piecemeal. The cardio boxing class is a joke. I’ve given myself a higher heart rate carrying in my sack of fast food from the car to the couch than I have during any portion of this “cardio” workout, even in the advanced classes. Now, I may be used to Turbo Jam’s style of cardio boxing, where after a workout, I can squeeze buckets of sweat out of my clothes, but then again, this is a workout game. Shouldn’t I expect a workout?

The zen portion of the fitness classes is equally useless. Since I’m a fatty mcfatass, and once again, the team has clearly never met a fat person before, the game has some interesting ideas about where my bones are located.

The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone, which goes somewhere up through my uterus and into the other leg. The second leg’s bone has decided to travel up into my butt, which is most DEFINITELY not where it resides within my body. In nearly every instance it places a bone, it will be along the side of a muscle/fat heavy area instead of where the bone anatomically belongs. There have been instances where the bone will sink into the floor or curve or snap in half, which means I NEVER get any useful feedback about how to position my body and I get no credit for doing the moves which means at the end of the session I get a sadface “Let’s try this again” message. Because if there’s anything more fun than frustration, it’s double doses of frustration!

I wish I had purchased a physical copy of this game so I could trade it in and at least get something back; instead, I bought it from the xbox live marketplace for the same amount of money, and now I’m stuck with it. Even if I could bring myself to play it, it can’t ever replace a gym workout. Hell, it can’t even replace my workout DVDs. Helpful.

4 Comments Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, a review in which the word “helpfully” is used sarcastically more than once.

  1. Lesley July 21, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    That’ll teach you about doing something the easy way, thanks Microsoft! And thank you, since I was debating getting that game.

    1. Mellzah July 21, 2011 at 6:09 pm

      Yeah, I didn’t even consider that I’d have less ownership of the game when I buy online…but from now on, it’s going to be a consideration. I’m really surprised about all the positive reviews this game got from the major review sites (which influenced my purchase decision). I’m starting to wonder if reviewers are “gently encouraged” to write positive reviews of the games put out by their paid advertisers.

  2. epiphannie July 21, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    I think this game should come with a feature that let’s you provide feedback in a loop. That way you can shout at it “RE-CALCULATING!!” Take that, obnoxious atomoton!

    1. Mellzah July 23, 2011 at 7:13 am

      The things I have shouted back at this game…I sincerely hope the house is soundproof or the neighbors have definitely gotten quite an earful.

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